Friday, January 26, 2018

Kraken Friends Sale & Interview with author Claudie Arseneault

Guess what? The Kraken Collective, an alliance of indie authors of LGBTQIAP+ fcition, along with several of their author buddiens (including myself) is currently running a sale on several of their titles as part of the Kraken Friends Sale! And as part of the event, we've created a personality quiz so you can see which queer sci-fi/fantasy hero you are. 

One of the participating authors is Claudie Arseneault, an asexual and aromantic-spectrum writer hailing from the very-French Québec City. Claudie is best known for the Aromantic and Asexual Characters Database and for her body of work, which features several ace and aro characters. She has written both science-fiction (Viral Airwaves) and fantasy (the City of Spires trilogy) and edited an anthology of amazing solarpunk dragon stories (Wings of Renewal).

I had the pleasure of interviewing Claudie about her writing background and her book, City of Strife. Check it out:


Hi Claudie! Can you tell us about your background as an author? What got you into writing?

Dungeon and dragons roleplaying on internet forums, then direct messages. I was always fairly good at writing, but that’s how I started storytelling. I built my own worlds, created characters, lead players through storylines. And I loved it. I loved provoking joy and sadness and frustration as they navigated my plans, I loved finding the right words to convey what I wanted, I loved all the background preparations and plotting… it was really fulfilling.

I loved, also, that I got to play and work in the Forgotten Realms, an universe I had spent so many hours in as a reader in my youth (I only started DnD at 17). Eventually I had one-on-one RP sessions with a boy from the UK, and I had built a massive storyline for him—an entire world that fit into a single city, Iriaebor—the very first roots of Isandor.

We played so much—up to five times a week, hours at a time, over a handful of years. But DnD sessions focus on the player character, and with time I grew frustrated that we didn’t have any of the cool scenes that happened out of his sight. So I wrote them down. That, too, was fun. The next year, I was participating in NaNoWriMo with a novel-length idea. That was in 2008, and I am still writing to this day.

What was the first idea you had for City of Strife, and how did the story grow from there?

So I’ve already mentioned this was part of a DnD setting. Long after I had stopped playing that particular game, I would RP these characters with other friends, in a wide variety of universes (Avatar AU, Steampunk AU, Sci-fi AU, three different fantasy AU… name it, we tried it). Through these, I explored multiple different storylines with my cast, from the darkest to the fluffiest, from teenagers to full-grown adults, and also had the opportunity to explore gender and sexuality, too.

City of Spires happened because in the end, these characters had no ‘canon’, I was struggling with writing Viral Airwaves, and wanted something familiar and low stress. I did not mean to publish it necessarily. I just wanted to write down a more official version, to play with them again, to have funwith writing. So I cobbled together some of my favourite storylines from our RPs, linking arcs from totally different universes, trying out new ones, and Isandor was born!

For those curious, here are some examples of changes and resemblances.
  • Arathiel was always part of House Brasten and always gone for decades, after being in a magical trap, but this Well and its impact on his senses are unique to this story.
  • Nevian was always a grumpy stickler for rules, but most of the storylines were of him as an adult who had not escaped Avenazar until much later. We did one with Teenage Nevian where he did, and had a support group to boot, and I never looked back.
  • Hasryan’s storyline with Brune is always the same, but his support group changes depending on the AU, and City of Strife is the only one he meets Camilla.
  • Sora is entirely new! She is loosely based on another character, but very loosely.
  • I usually started Larryn’s story before he lost his foster father and had him built the Shelter. I decided to skip ahead to the already slightly more responsible Larryn, and to build from there.

Anyway, if you’re curious about this, it’s the kind of thing I’m happy to discuss with patrons!

Can you tell us a bit about your character Nevian?

I like to call Nevian my Stubborn Son. Determination and resilience are key characteristics for him. Nevian is the kind of person who works relentlessly, no matter what that means for his health or social life, because it’s the only way he sees to get what he wants. And for most of his life, that was fairly true, so he’s also grown convinced that he’s always right and Logic ™ will never fail him. He can be quite overbearing with that, and he doesn’t bother to be nice if he thinks it’s safe to speak his mind.

Although only 18, Nevian likes to act like a grown adult—and he’s been through enough that he’s lost a lot of innoncence. He’s extremely confident in himself but dislikes receiving help, making him very bad at asking for it or working with others. It just has never worked out for him before, so why would it now?

What’s your favorite Nevian moment in the story?

Oh, that’s such a difficult one. There are a lot of tiny lines I love from Nevian, subtle instances where he demonstrates both lack of tact, stubbornness, and a tendency to be quite literal. Like when he gets told by a child she can do something “faster than he can say ‘magic’” so of course, he says “Magic” and considers the matter closed. Or when another tries to drag him outside, and he negotiates his coming along in exchange of two weeks of being left alone so he can study his magic. Nevian’s very driven, but often only towards one specific goal: magic.

In general, scenes in the second book are my favourites, because Nevian can slowly let his guard down and befriend people. He gets to grow in a positive manner. There is also a scene coming in the next book (the third one, City of Exile) where he is absolutely lovesick, and this puzzles him greatly, and he’s not sure how to deal with himself because he’s never experienced romantic love before. It’s not something I ever wrote with this character, and it leads to a scene where an aromantic character gives him a book about asexuality and aromanticism and tells him he maybe should look it up. It was so important for me to give Nevian tools for his questioning that fit with him—a book, personal space, time to analyze. Those scenes will be incredibly important.

If Nevian were to suddenly hop through a dimensional portal and wind up in our 2018 world, how would he react?

He would freak out at everything, and then he would get incredibly excited at technology and try to figure out the magic that makes it work. In most modern/SF AUs I’ve had Nevian in, he was a space person, and loved astronomy in all its forms.

I think if you took the City of Strife Nevian and flung him into modern world, though, he would fall in love with programming. It definitely would take him time to adapt, however. Nevian is hard-working and stubborn, but he is not flexible by nature, and the brutal change would leave him reeling for quite a while.

What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?

Dialogue, without question. This is also usually how I build scenes—around dialogues. It’s the source of inspiration for me, the thing from which everything else flows, and I love writing banter.

The only thing that can top finding the perfect line is that moment in plotting when everything clicks together. Sometimes you’re stuck on how to fit storylines together, or how to build a satisfying storyarc, and you get this idea that kind of solves several problems at once while supporting your themes and fitting right into the rest of the plot, making everything better and stronger? The moment when you get those ideas and make them fit are so exciting, like having the perfect piece of puzzle take shape right in front of your eyes. I love that.

How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?

I write books over several years, but that’s usually because I have a rotation between projects? I tend to work on something for one to three months at a time, usually going through a draft or a round of revisions, then send it to betas/editors/let it rest and switch to another project. Then I’ll come back to it ~2 months later, put in another 1-2 months, send it back again… and the cycle goes on.

Usually I need a first draft (aka the messy bits where I tell myself a story and keep deviating from plan and powering through to the end), a second draft (aka I read the thing after a while and tried to fix everything terribly wrong with it before outside eyes see it), a third draft (aka let’s now fix everything I missed but that betas and SRs found, then line-edit the heck out of it), and a final version that goes after copyedits. Add in marketing and other business-related things, and if you string the months back to back, it makes around a year of work? Usually it is spread out over a little more than two years, and some novels need more drafts than others.

What is it about the fantasy genre that appeals to you?

The endless possibilities, I think, and how frequent alternate worlds are. I don’t tend to write in Earth settings much, and fantasy frees me from that. It’s like having a playground where you can make your own rules, and not even follow those of physics!

Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns?

All the time. I sometimes see people say that when they plan, they feel like the story doesn’t hold any surprises for them anymore, and it used to confuse me because that… isn’t my writer life at all. I deviate from my plans all the time, and always it’s to go in new and more interesting directions. Then there’s all the unexpected precious lines of narration or dialogue that pop up and shine. Even with Isandor and characters I’ve known for 10 years, I still get surprises. Stories evolve with you, after all.

Thanks for stopping by!

City of Strife is the first installment of the City of Spires trilogy, a multi-layered political fantasy led by an all QUILTBAG cast. Fans of complex storylines crisscrossing one another, elves and magic, and strong friendships and found families will find everything they need within these pages.


Isandor, City of Spires.

A hundred and thirty years have passed since Arathiel last set foot in his home city. Isandor hasn’t changed—bickering merchant families still vie for power through eccentric shows of wealth—but he has. His family is long dead, a magical trap has dulled his senses, and he returns seeking a sense of belonging now long lost.

Arathiel hides in the Lower City, piecing together a new life among in a shelter dedicated to the homeless and the poor, befriending an uncommon trio: the Shelter’s rageful owner, Larryn, his dark elven friend Hasryan, and Cal the cheese-loving halfling. When Hasryan is accused of Isandor’s most infamous assassination of the last decade, what little peace Arathiel has managed to find for himself is shattered. Hasryan is innocent… he thinks. In order to save him, Arathiel may have to shatter the shreds of home he’d managed to build for himself.

Arathiel could appeal to the Dathirii—a noble elven family who knew him before he disappeared—but he would have to stop hiding, and they have battles of their own to fight. The idealistic Lord Dathirii is waging a battle of honour and justice against the cruel Myrian Empire, objecting to their slavery, their magics, and inhumane treatment of their apprentices. One he could win, if only he could convince Isandor’s rulers to stop courting Myrian’s favours for profit.

In the ripples that follow Diel’s opposition, friendships shatter and alliances crumble. Arathiel, the Dathirii, and everyone in Isandor fights to preserve their homes, even if the struggle changes them irrevocably.

Main LGBTQIAP rep: Aromantic, asexual, gay, bisexual.

Support rep:
More aromantic, asexual, bisexual, gay, in addition to lesbian, transgender, nonbinary. Overall cast includes several characters of colour.

Trigger warnings: Abuse (physical, emotional, mind control — seriously, if depictions of abuse trigger you, please be very careful when approaching this novel/avoid it.), torture, homelessness, child abandonment, police brutality, racism, family death, memory loss, death by fire (mention) and hanging.

1 comment:

  1. that an interesting interview..i hope you don't mind me using in when having to write my essay. on essence of writing..